Monday, April 3, 2017


April 3, 2017

The Trump era is not of Trump's making. The financial stress, promised to us as Conservatives, finally in charge of the purse strings after fighting the New Deal for 80 years, rewrite the social policy priorities of our country, will destroy many of the gains against poverty we have made, and leave millions of Americans and a hundred thousand Vermonters, in a Social-Darwinist gutter. I can't bring myself to imagine the picture that results.

Of course we enter what is for us a new world. Where we are no longer Post New Deal. We are now Old Deal. That very old deal. Where privilege begets privilege, and all of the gains which have been made to bring people out of poverty and improve the health of every person, are under threat. Where democracy, which made the elites subject to law and the will of the people of central concern to those who wield power, is at risk. And because climate change can reset the entire course of life on Earth, and what we choose will determine how that unfolds, the future of humanity and life, is in play, and this is a civilizational moment. Do not take this choice lightly.

As we face the impacts of the “conservative” vision in our individual spheres of interest, I hope that everyone will speak loudly and as one voice, that the problem is not that there isn't enough money, that the problem is not that our group deserves money and the other group does not. The problem is that those of privilege, those who are in control of the wealth, are unwilling to share it. There is plenty of wealth to do what we need to, but the people who control the wealth also control the people who write the laws and govern the people. We must set them straight. They are not entitled to hoard the wealth that the community produces.

The idea that wealth is created through investment is not wrong. But investors, properly, are stewards of the community's wealth, and the work of producing wealth is not done by the investor. The entire community, working as an enterprise, including the law, the labor, the natural legacy of the community, and the social fabric, participates, and the fact that the law is written so that the investors reap the rewards and are able to accumulate that wealth for personal hoards, while others live with too little to meet their needs, is a flaw in the structure of the economy. Such a harvest of the wealth by the wealthy undermines the vigor of that economic engine, and damages the lives that are its purpose. Wealth, the abstract representation of the productive output of the community, must be circulated to bring well-being to its producers, or the society will fall ill, decay, and destroy itself. We are witness to this process now.

Americans seem to regard the acquisition of wealth as the best way to create personal security, and the right to get wealthy as an intrinsic right of self-care. It is elemental in the American Dream, and it is a profoundly mistaken logic.
  1. Only a few people can ever be wealthy, and only a fraction of people can ever achieve life-time well-being and security, in this model. If it were truly possible for everyone to be wealthy, and they were, no one would be wealthy, because the mere ownership of money means nothing if the owner cannot spend the money to get simple things done. Hence the economy and the law are organized to create winners and losers, and to prevent the majority of people from accumulating enough wealth to be secure and comfortable. Private wealth as security opposes community security.
  2. Wealth in a silo is inherently insecure. Every person, no matter how wealthy, depends on the health and well-being of everyone else, and the community, to be safe and comfortable. If you hoard your wealth, you are a target. You resort to guns, increase oppression, become callous to the loss of life, witness the destruction of our planet, and descend into a social-emotional oblivion.
  3. Wealth in a silo ignores the eternal human strategy of sharing to ensure personal well-being. People instinctively reject selfishness on the part of others. If you have nuts, meat, land or money, you are expected to share. Sharing creates long-term stability and security for everyone, and hoarding (including wealth) is damaging to the community. Imagine I have caught game and I hoard it. Before I can eat it, it rots. Others have not enjoyed the benefit of my catch, nor have I. And when another hunter brings home a catch, I go hungry because I did not share when I might have. The difference today is in the immediacy of the harmful effects. The wealthy rationalize that these costs can be avoided.
  4. The most secure and stable societies, in which everyone gets their needs met, value sharing, and the result is a rich and meaningful life. When the social fabric is healthy, there is no poverty, no matter how little wealth there is.
  5. Wealth disparity in itself is a signal of decay. (See "The Spirit Level" by Wilkinson and Picket.) Social, political and economic sustainability are reduced by increasing wealth disparity. We can improve our chances of social and cultural longevity and sustainability by creating institutions which enforce the circulation of wealth from the wealthy back to the poor and marginal.
Since the normal functioning of the economy transfers wealth from the poor and marginal to the wealthy, policies that transfer the wealth back to the underprivileged merely balances the system, creates a circulation of wealth which improves all lives. The question we are compelled to ask is "Will we allow those who are privileged and control the wealth to continue to increase their wealth forever, leaving the rest of us to become poorer and poorer, more and more desperate, and the society ever more divided and combustible?", or "Will we decide that the well-being of the community and its members, is important, that living in one community in which everyone is valued is important, and will we find ways to capture the wealth of the society to correct its ills?"

The change we must make in our thinking is from "wealth=security" to "sharing=security". When we achieve illusory security through wealth, we divide our fates from the fates of our fellows, and make the world more dangerous and more prone to self-annihilation. When we decide that the entire society must be secure and healthy to promote personal security and wellness, then sharing is the logical course of action. This is the civilizational choice we have: whether to share our planet and its resources, or to hoard them, fight over them, and threaten the life of the planet over them. Sharing is the only choice that offers us survival.